Kabul: When the Afghan female robotics team, made up of teenage students from the western city of Herat, finally made it to a global competition in the United States, the cameras were focused on them. Here was a glimmer of hope from a place so often associated with bloodshed. The girls had made it against all odds, including being denied visas twice.
With a big smile, Fatemah Qaderyan, 14, the team captain, illustrated just how far girls, even from a challenging place like Afghanistan, could go if given the opportunity. Crucial to that, she repeated, was the support of her parents.
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Condolences to Team Afghanistan's captain,Fatemah whose father passed away in recent attack by ISIS in Herat.His daughter made him so proud pic.twitter.com/9StgUjdHPc
— Roya Mahboob (@RoyaMahboob) August 3, 2017
Tuesday night, Fatemah’s father, Mohammed Asef Qaderyan, 54, was killed when suicide bombers targeted hundreds of worshipers at a mosque near their home in the city of Herat.
Roya Mahboob, an Afghan technology entrepreneur who helped arrange the team’s trip to the United States, confirmed the news of the death. Jailani Farhad, a spokesman for the governor of Herat, also said that Mr. Qaderyan had been among those killed.
The assault, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility, left 37 people dead and 66 others wounded. It was the fifth attack this year against Shiite places of worship, killing at least 44 civilians and wounding 88, according to the United Nations mission in Afghanistan. Four of those attacks took place in Herat Province, and one took place in Kabul. The regional branch of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for two of them.
The Afghan robotics team attracted international attention after their visa requests to attend First Global, a competition with participants from 150 countries, were rejected twice. After a public outcry, President Trump reportedly intervened to let them travel to the United States. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, met with the team and said it was “a privilege and an honor to have you all with us.”
The team was awarded a silver medal for courageous achievement.
“I am so excited, and very, very happy,” Fatemah said, turning the medal over in her hands. “I still can’t believe this happened.”
The girls returned home to a heroes’ welcome, with leaders holding receptions for them and awarding them plaques.
“Their success shows that Afghan girls, despite the challenges, can be good inspirations in the field of knowledge and technology,” the president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, said in congratulating the team.
Ten days later, Fatemah’s father was killed.